By the Venerable Calhoun Walpole,
Archdeacon of the Diocese of South Carolina
On Friday of this week, May 8th, we remember Julian of Norwich, who famously wrote: "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well." In these words, Julian continued, “I saw the deep, high mystery of God.”
In these days, where and how and through whom are you seeing the deep high mystery of God?
Billy Baldwin from McClellanville (prolific writer, member of St James-Santee, and a dear friend) often helps me to see such mysteries, which is why I want to share with you one of his new poems, written several days ago. Thank you, Billy!
Sheltered in Place (Bluffton) by Wm. Baldwin
The doors of Heaven,
the windows, too,
are of Greek Revival proportions:
wide and high to
the point where
your hands stretched out
can’t touch top or sides.
All this approximate. “About.”
Of course, the rooms are vast,
and usually lack a roof.
No plywood. Just sky.
Previnyl days to boot.
The floors are road dust
and summer sunlight mixed.
Dog paws imbedded there
(large or small, easy fixed).
Plus, reachably near
a thousand black berries.
What else can the infinite exist of?
You’re young again. The structure
a bright, slightly dusty love.
Summer sweet. Words plain.
Spoke through lips now
By the Reverend Canon Caleb J. Lee,
President of the Standing Committee for the Diocese of South Carolina
On the Fourth Sunday of Easter, the Church celebrated Good Shepherd Sunday. Outside of the Lord’s Prayer, the 23rd Psalm is perhaps the most commonly used piece of scripture. It is one that when the priest at a graveside funeral begins it, people generally recite it without having to read along.
The imagery that the psalm portrays is one of comfort and protection.
I once spent some intentional time in prayer with the psalm. In that time of prayer, I allowed the images to run through my heart and mind. When the prayer was over, what remained was a simple image of a child walking and holding the finger of a large, gentle, yet strong, hand. In all aspects of my life I would like to think that I am the strong hand. However, the reality of the situation is that I am the child.
In my own memories, as a child, I remember falling on the sidewalk and scraping my knee. My parents would run to pick me up and comfort me, wiping my tears and blowing cool breath on the injury. I remember, as a child being flung on my mother’s hip and carried around. I remember, deep in my bones, the feeling of protection and care that she gave. I remember also, the day she told me I was getting a little too big to be carried. And for me, that was the beginning of the end of an age of innocence. No longer could I be carried or feel protected in that particular way. Instead, I would have to depend on other forms of care and protection provided by my parents.
It is simply part of growing up. But there is something so sweet, so primal about the experience of being cared for like I previously mentioned—being swept up into the arms of a parent and feeling completely safe and loved.
So much so, that you know exactly what I am talking about. Our hearts yearn for that feeling, even in our older age. All of us are, as the Commendation in the BCP says, “sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock.” We yearn to be loved and cared for and flung on the shoulders of a compassionate God.
Grace Church Cathedral has been involved in a mission experience called Glory Ridge for the past five years. Glory Ridge is a place for young people and people young at heart to go and experience God the Good Shepherd. This special place has been a part of my own life and ministry for the past 15 years. One of the youth ministers in the large extended family of Glory Ridge passed away last week. He was a shepherd to a host of young people and left a lasting legacy and imprint on their hearts. His life pointed to the Good Shepherd’s life.
I am reminded of all the many shepherds in my life who worked for the Good Shepherd. The best ones never forgot that they were lambs. Pause for a moment today and give thanks for the shepherds in your life. Don’t forget that you are a shepherd too.
By the Rt. Rev. Henry N. Parsley, Jr.,
Visiting Bishop for the Diocese of South Carolina
The Fourth Sunday of Easter is known as Good Shepherd Sunday. Nearly always we hear the words of Psalm 23, one of the most beloved passages in the Bible for many of us. The image of God as shepherd springs from the lived experience of agrarian people who tended flocks and knew shepherding intimately. We do not see many shepherds in our day; yet the 23rd Psalm profoundly resonates with us. Most of us know it by heart. As a bishop I think of it always as I carry my pastoral staff, the symbol of the good shepherd.
Meditate on it with me for a moment, using the translation most of us have in our memory bank. There are three movements in the psalm: verses 1-3, 4-5, and 6. I like to think of them, mnemonically, as provision, presence, and promise.
The first, “provision,” begins, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” A shepherd’s task is to keep the flock moving to find what they need to flourish. God, the psalm affirms, does the same for us. Green pastures for nourishment, still waters for hydration, safe pathways for movement. These metaphors for God’s loving care “restore the soul,” giving us physical and spiritual vitality. The gifts of the good earth give us bodily nourishment; God’s love sustains us inwardly. “The sure provisions of my God attend me all my days,” as Issac Watts’ great hymn says.
The second part, “presence,” acknowledges that we, like sheep, go though dark times. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” The assurance is not that life won’t be difficult. It is for all of us at times. The assurance is that the divine presence is with us. The shepherd’s “rod and staff” protect us from the dark. Indeed in the wilderness times of life, God sets a table for us and our “cup runneth over.” I will always remember asking a young couple who had lost a young child to cancer about their faith struggles. They said that they could not have gotten through it without knowing that God and the church’s love were with them each day. Presence is the gift.
The final part, “promise,” is a single verse. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,” the poet proclaims. The verb reminds us that a shepherd’s place is in the back of the flock, guiding them forward and, with the staff (or a sheep dog), nudging back those who wander. God’s goodness and mercy are in the midst of our life encouraging us to keep moving in just the same way. The promise is that God is always trying to give us what is good and will mercifully nudge us back when we fail. That promise, the psalm concludes, goes even beyond this life: “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” God’s following goodness and mercy reach into the mystery of eternity. Beyond our final breath the good shepherd will never let us go. Our dwelling place in this miraculous world will one day open on to transcendent glory. As an old prayer says, “Bring us, O Lord God, at our last awakening into the house and gate of heaven; to enter into that gate and dwell in that house, where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling but one equal light…in the habitations of your majesty and of your glory, world without end.”
Saying this psalm and remembering the “3 p’s” helps set me right daily. I commend it to you.
The Rt. Rev. Henry Nutt Parsley, Jr.
During the uncertain times created by the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, leadership of the diocese will send out regular meditations on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays for the next while as we all adjust to a new chapter of living and being the Church.